opinion

Navigating the Ever-Evolving Needs of Your Customers

Navigating the Ever-Evolving Needs of Your Customers

How well do you know your customers? Can you describe their needs, desires and aspirations? How about their buying patterns and how they use your product?

Since it’s your customers who keep you in business, understanding as much as you can about them should be at the core of your strategy. That’s true whether you’re marketing to attract new customers or making logistical improvements to ensure your current customers are satisfied. And understanding starts with listening. In fact, business owners cite not listening to customers as the cause of 14% of business failures.

Going after all the business you can is expensive, and failure to make new customers happy means all that time, effort and money goes down the drain.

Let’s look at how to make sure you have both the information and the capacity you need to give your current customers what they are looking for.

Dealing With Complaints

Listening is essential, but it can definitely be challenging sometimes — because so much customer feedback comes in the form of complaints. Customers will rarely come to you with compliments because when your product works the way it should, which hopefully is most of the time, they tend to take it for granted. Maybe they’ll tell people they know about it, but not necessarily in a way that will get back to you.

That leaves your company on the receiving end of mostly complaints. After all, complaining is what the internet is for. How would we survive without the comments section? But remember: When people complain, it’s usually because they care. Customers rarely complain because they hate your product; it’s usually because they like your product and want it to improve.

Unfortunately, they don’t always know how to convey this tactfully, which can be very difficult for you and your team. Don’t take anything from your customers personally. You should see some of the things people have written to my teams. People can be horrible when complaining, even when you’re trying your best to improve things for them. Often, there is a particular lack of respect for lower-level support team members, so you should train and prepare them for that.

Tackling Suggestions

Suggestions are much more valuable than complaints. Listening to your customers’ suggestions can definitely improve your product. However, dealing with suggestions also requires some serious triage.

If every customer had their way, everything would work exactly how they personally prefer it, and everything would also be free. So when it comes to suggestions, you have to pace yourself. Some suggestions will be winners; others can waste time and resources or even make things worse.

If multiple customers request many of the same things, then consider adding those features or making those changes. Even if just one person asks for something, it can be worthwhile to consider whether their idea is a good one. Sometimes a single person will make a great suggestion that nobody else thought of. The key is staying clear on what your product is, or how you want to run your service. If a suggestion makes sense, fits your vision and helps you provide a better product or service, you should pursue it.

Scaling at a Reasonable Pace

Now you’re listening to your customers. Great! But what if you find yourself faced with more requests for updates, changes and new features than you can handle? The last thing you want is to invite feedback but then have customers feel you are ignoring them.

It’s great to have an effective sales team, but if you spend your marketing budget fueling demand that you are ill-equipped to handle, you’re asking for trouble. Going after all the business you can is expensive, and failure to make new customers happy means all that time, effort and money goes down the drain.

Growth that you can anticipate and predict is safer than dizzying explosions. Think about the start of COVID-19, when suddenly millions of people were thrust into video conferencing. Had Zoom responded slowly, it could have sunk the entire business. Was the company happy about the surge in business? Undoubtedly, yes — but it is easier to handle new business when it’s not an overwhelming onslaught. Consistency wins the race.

Overdependence on One or More Large Customers

Being responsive to customers can be further complicated if one or two clients represent a disproportionate chunk of your business. Catering to a single customer to earn most of your income might sound great, but it also means that one customer will effectively control your entire business. Everyone has their biggest client, but if one customer accounts for most of your revenues or profits, that can throw a wrench into your attempts to cater to other customers — whom you might need later, especially if that one big customer suddenly decides to take their business elsewhere.

That’s why it is a matter of basic risk management not to rely too heavily on a small pool of customers. It is true that big new customers can make or break companies, but diversification is still the best route to stable business revenues.

Which brings us back to listening and being responsive. Pay attention to your smaller customers. Build relationships with them. Working on relationships you already have is easier and more cost-effective than building new ones. Understanding their needs and catering to them will help your business grow and diversify as you help theirs grow.

One great way to do this is by upselling or cross-selling them on existing products or services you already provide. These are easy ways to grow small clients into larger ones. If you cannot build up smaller clients, ensure you are marketing to a more diverse audience or diversify your offerings. The result will be a more resilient business.

Whether you’re contending with fussy clients, figuring out how best to juggle small and large ones, or considering ways to pivot your mission as customer needs evolve, staying nimble is vital. No matter your growth rate or the types of customers you pursue, listening and responding to feedback, and making meaningful changes at a reasonably steady pace, are the surest ways to avert business woes.

Juicy Jay is the CEO and founder of the JuicyAds advertising network, as well as the founder of Broker.xxx, which helps people buy and sell adult websites and businesses.

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